Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Kamakura 鎌倉

My dad came to visit Japan! It's been two weeks now since he and my mom returned to the U.S., but I have a few great travel posts from the fam's visit to share. It was my father's first visit to Japan, so we hit up a bunch of the big sites, and did a bit of traveling. First up, Kamakura.

On our way to Tsurugaoka Hachiman Jingu.

The sakura were just blooming out during our visit, but a few flowers were still around on the street leading up to the Hachiman Jingu. After a quick tempura rice bowl lunch, we headed into the shrine itself. It was great to visit Kamakura after being away for four years; I have many happy memories of visiting the city when we lived in Yokohama, so a return was definitely in order.

The guys near the entrance to the shrine.
Candied grapes as sampled by little man.

The shrine is nearly one thousand years old, and until March of 2010 had a huge thousand year old ginkgo tree standing in front of it. We had visited the shrine only a few days before the tree fell, and I can remember the strong winds of the storm rattling our windows in Yokohama all night. I also recall how shocked I was to learn that the tree had fallen, and how glad I was that I had the chance to see it. The stump of the tree is still there, and is visible in the bottom left corner of the photo below. There are shoots growing around it, so life goes on, but it is also a potent reminder of the loss of what once was a truly magnificent tree.

Ema at the shrine. People write their wish on the ema and leave it at the shrine.

Sakura on the shrine grounds.
One of two weddings we saw at the shrine.

When we left the shrine, we headed back to Kamakura Station with a brief stop for ice cream along the way (sweet potato for me, vanilla for the fam). By this point the day had turned from a sunny one to a downpour, but we soldiered on. We took the Enoshima Dentetsu, an adorable little old railway, over to Hasedera to view the sites there, including Hasedera and the Daibutsu (great Buddha) at Kotokuin.
Enoshima dentetsu.
It stopped raining for long enough to take this photo.
Sakura daibutsu money shot!

Dating from the 13th century, the daibutsu is over 35 feet high. Visitors can go inside of it, which little dude thought was amazing. At first he asked where the bones of the Buddha were, and then moved on to comparing it to a hollow chocolate bunny. There truly is nothing quite like the art historical analysis of a four year old.

Our next stop was Hasedera, and it really started to rain hard on the short walk between temples. By this time we all had wet socks and were feeling a chill, but powered through for one more temple.

Rain, rain, rain.

 One of little dude's highlights from the day was the cave at Hasedera, or the Benten-kutsu Cave.
Entering the cave. 
Benzaiten and her biwa, carved into the cave walls.
Hundreds of tiny Benzaiten in one of the caves. Visitors can purchase the mini statues to wish for good fortune.
Flowers at Hasedera.
The Kannon hall. Inside are three 30 foot high sculptures. We spent some time lighting candles inside and "making wishes."
Outside the Kannon hall.
At this point in our rainy adventure my feet may have been damp and near frozen, but the rain did make everything look quite beautiful!
Jizo at Hasedera.
More Jizo.
Back in the cave for another visit. Seriously, it was the best part. This photo also shows how many of the tiny Benzaiten there were.

More flowers!

At this point in the afternoon the rain began to clear up. We made a brief refreshment stop and walked over to the nearby beach to gaze out at Sagami Bay.

Entranced by the waves.

The fam on the beach!
A parting shot of the Enoshima Dentetsu on our way back home.

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